While horror is something of a niche genre, it’s nothing if not tenacious, persevering through years and always looking back at its roots. And in the last decade or so we’ve seen a boom of new horror games coming out, which should be heartwarming and appropriately bone-chilling for every fan of the genre!
While traditionally a single-player affair, horror games have evolved a lo, and there are a few which shine as multiplayer offerings, be it through asymmetric multi, or as an interactive movie you can organize a whole party around.
Be warned, and mind the shadows. They are always listening… as they should, because now we can present our list of…
|Resident Evil 8: Village||2021-05-07||78%|
|Resident Evil 4||2014-02-27||72%|
|Killing Floor 2||2016-11-18||89%|
|The Evil Within 2||2017-10-13||90%|
|Friday The 13th The Game||2017-05-26||47%|
|The Beast Inside||2019-10-17||89%|
|Resident Evil 7||2017-01-23||81%|
|Layers Of Fear Masterpiece Edition||2016-02-15||58%|
|Layers Of Fear 2||2019-05-28|
|Resident Evil 2 Remake||2019-01-25||89%|
|The Dark Pictures Anthology Man Of Medan||2019-08-30||72%|
|Dead By Daylight||2016-06-14||40%|
|Amnesia The Dark Descent||2010-09-08||76%|
Most horror games are singleplayer affairs, leaving you alone with whatever nightmares stalk the shadows.
Not so in Phasmophobia, a team-based game about going into places in order to verify ghost hauntings. As you’d expect, it’s not a safe job, and many ghost types (well over a dozen already) can react quite aggressively to your team poking around.
The are many different locations your mission might take you, and many of them are quite haunting on their own, like abandoned asylum, or an after-hours high school. And then weird stuff starts happening, including the ghost itself manifesting when you’re alone in a room. Phasmophobia is also VR-compatible, which magnifies the scares it’s able to deliver.
|Horror type:||Top-down perspective survival|
Darkwood one of the titles which prove that horror games don’t need a first- or third-person perspective to be scary.
It uses its top-down perspective very cleverly to build suspense. Perhaps something ran through the narrow cone of vision provided by a closed window, or you hear the sounds of hungry mutants pounding on the door you hastily barricaded.
Just because Darkwood uses a top-down view doesn’t mean your character has eyes at the back of his head, after all. The game is set in the 1980s, somewhere in the Soviet Bloc, and the story starts by being just unsettling, but the horror elements quickly ramp up and the tension and weirdness doesn’t let go until the ending, which is influenced by your actions over several chapters.
|Horror type:||Supernatural mystery/adventure|
Oxenfree straddles the line between a supernatural mystery and a proper horror.
It follows a group of teenagers who decided to have a weekend party on a nearby island, a former military base. The local stories say that there is some supernatural stuff happening in the caves, so the teens of course go to check, which triggers a bizarre and dangerous adventure.
Oxenfree focuses heavily on its narrative elements and the interactions between characters powered by a smooth conversation system. As you explore the island and discover more radio frequencies, you’ll start piecing together what’s really happening. Oxenfree is on the lighter side as far as scares are concerned, but the story is engaging, and the choices feel weighty.
Coming from the creators of Layers of Fear (soon to have a third instalment) comes The Medium, a game set in Poland, at the tail end of the 1990s.
It follows a young woman called Marianne who visits an abandoned holiday resort to investigate its gruesome history and its mysterious link to her own dreams. She is uniquely equipped to do so: she can see both the physical and the spiritual world.
It’s not just a narrative gimmick, either: the game splits your screen down the middle and shows you both layers of reality. It comes in handy while solving puzzles, but also exposes you to the supernatural threats dwelling in this place. The Medium is a very interesting game, with a dark story and deeply unsettling atmosphere, and what more would you want from a horror game?
The Quarry is currently the latest of cinematic horror games from the Supermassive Games studio.
It follows a group of camp counsellors at Hackett’s Quarry, who discover the place has a monster stalking the nearby woods. Some of the get attacked, which sets them on a course which will define the rest of their lives.
In a true Supermassive fashion, The Quarry is pretty much an interactive movie, with the players interacting with the story via quick-time events and narrative choices. The Quarry is a great tribute to a few classic horror tropes, with nosy camp counselors, a weird family, and all. As a result it more reminiscent of Supermassive’s Until Dawn than their recent Dark Pictures Anthology titles.
Friday the 13th: The Game
|Horror type:||Asymmetrical multiplayer|
The Friday the 13th film franchise is one of the all-time classics not only of the slasher subgenre, but horror as a whole.
This game, developed by Illfonic and Black Tower Studios oozes with love for the source material, from the perfect murder-fodder in the form of camp counselors to Jason’s numerous costumes and kill animations. And it’s at its best when played in multiplayer.
The core experience is an asymmetric competitive multiplayer mode pitting one player controlling Jason against several player (or AI) controlled counsellors. The game isn’t much of a horror when you’re playing Jason, but when you have to run from a competent Jason player, it can quickly become a hectic, nerve-wracking struggle, although not without hope of survival.
GTFO runs on a relatively simple story premise: crater caused by the Dinosaur-killing meteor hides some unsavoury inhabitants, now unleashed by scientists who drilled too deep.
You play as prisoners pressed into exploring the derelict complex and completing whatever tasks need some cannon fodder thrown at them. Tight cooperation and good communication with your team are going to be absolutely crucial.
GTFO puts you in dimly lit corridors from which a horde of vaguely humanoid toothy monsters can erupt at any moment to overwhelm you and eat your face… unless your team has your back. The enemy designs are sufficiently humanoid to feel wrong, and them swarming at you after you triggered an alarm will certainly raise your pulse. Not a psychological horror, but quite scary nonetheless.
At first glance Hunt: Showdown looks like a first-person shooter set in the gloomy rendition of the Old West.
But then horrifying worms emerge from the puddle nearby, reanimated dead start shambling in your direction, and you’ve just picked up a trail of an unholy monstrosity you came here to banish. To make matters worse: other hunter teams are after the same bounty.
There are currently four extremely dangerous boss monsters: Scrapbeak, Spider, Assassin, Butcher, each being its own brand of terrifying and disturbing. The tension of chasing these monsters, the fear of being too slow to get out of the sights of enemy hunters, and the monsters that populate the maps can really create an oppressive, nightmarish atmosphere.
|Horror type:||Puzzle-platformer adventure|
If a side-scrolling platformer game can be a horror, then Inside certainly qualifies.
From the beginning to the end (any of several possible), this minimalist platformer makes sure you won’t feel too comfortable at any point. The scenes you move through are mostly on the black-and-white spectrum, with barely any hints of colour, and the world is populated by odd, hostile creatures in addition to soldiers of an unspecified dystopian government.
It might not have the infamous spider, but it swings from an oppressive dystopian setting with mind control, to nightmarish monsters from horror and myths. Death comes cheap, too — the little boy you control can die in many different ways, and they tend to be quite brutal and discouraging from further failures. The best-known ending is probably the most graphically disturbing thing in the game, too.
Layers of Fear (1, 2)
The first Layers of Fear is a trip through a large mansion in the body and mind of a hallucinating painter roaming the corridors and rooms of his mansion as he’s trying to piece together his life after a series of tragic events.
The surroundings change and twist in unexpected ways, obscuring the truth of your past. Can you handle the visions put in front of you by your haunted mind?
Layers of Fear 2 also pursues the immersion in a troubled mind of an artist, but this time it’s an actor, not a painter. The story follows The Actor during an extended film shoot taking place on an ocean cruise ship. Unfortunately, the Actor is haunted by visions of a mysterious Rat Queen, the childhood broken by an abusive father and a lot of other, more…disturbing imagery.
After the original Outlast making good use of a non-combatant protagonist and interesting expansion came Outlast 2, taking the terror to a secluded corner of Arizona.
You play as Blake Langermann, a journalist investigating a mysterious murder with his wife, also a reporter. He finds crazed, violent doomsday cults, confronts his past, and uncovers the truth underneath everything that happens.
Blake needs to save his wife, who went missing after a helicopter crash, and he pretty much has only his camera to aid him along the way and show enemies looking for him in the darkness. Outlast 2 doesn’t feature any obvious monsters, but the crazy cultists easily make up for it, with the added terror of not knowing what made them this way. Just watch out for the one with a pickaxe.
Resident Evil 2 (Remake)
2019’s Resident Evil 2 is a remake of a classic Capcom survival horror under the same title.
It doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, it simply keeps the mortifying atmosphere of the original even and makes sure the presentation matches modern standards. As a rookie police officer Leon and a college student Claire you’ll face deadly zombies and other results of the Umbrella Corporation’s research.
You’ll deal with low ammo, try to unlock doors, and do your best to stay ahead of Mr. X, a lumbering behemoth keen to find you and crush your skull with its Umbrella Corp.-sculpted hands. Despite the change of camera perspective, RE2 remake doesn’t lose its touch, and the enhanced graphics make the zombies and other monstrosities appear much scarier.
Soma takes place in an underwater research facility in the early 22nd century, the last place on Earth where humans have survived after a massive extinction event.
After an odd brain scan procedure, you awaken in a research station, seemingly abandoned except for an occasional transmission and the whirring of machinery. The last hope for humanity is the ARK holding brain scans of the crew.
As you’ll explore the corridors of PATHOS-II in order to launch the ARK you’ll encounter robots with conflicted identity, some of which are openly hostile to you. You’ll also answer the questions of what constitutes identity and consciousness. The underwater setting, the secrets uncovered along the way, and great pacing make Soma a thrilling and unsettling experience.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan
|Horror type:||Interactive survival|
From the developers of 2015’s Until Dawn came Man of Medan, the first of horror stories collected in The Dark Pictures Anthology.
In many ways, Man of Medan is similar in concept to Until Dawn and The Quarry. As you play through it, at certain moments you will have to make a choice between two (three, if we include no choice) options which influence the story in big ways.
The story involves a group or young adults going on a diving trip to a sunken World War II plane, but get captured by pirates and taken to a ghost ship, Ourang Medan, where weird apparitions and creatures start to haunt them. You can play it in a few different ways: alone, in a 2-player online co-op, or even with a few friends over in the Movie Night mode, which has you pass the controller to other people as the story dictates.
Certainly an interesting title, if very niche, it deserves a spot on the list because it combines that unmistakable Polish take on the cyberpunk with a deep atmosphere of horror and an uncomfortable vision of transhumanism.
The gameplay consists mostly of you exploring the world as Daniel Lazarski, a special investigator who can connect to a chip inside the brain of a person and interrogate their mind for clues.
This time, though, it’s personal: the case involves Daniel’s son, and the mystery gets bigger and weirder the longer you look into it. Observer’s atmosphere is unlike any other game’s, and the casting on Blade Runner’s Rutger Hauer lends it an extra air of genre credibility. Cyberpunk horror games aren’t a populated enough genre for you to skip this one!
Alan Wake is, at its core, about fiction, and how a mind submerged in fiction can lose touch with reality.
The titular Alan Wake is a writer who suffers from a writer’s block and in an attempt to find a solution tries a writer’s retreat with his wife. Unfortunately, this gets him involved with mysterious and dark forces which seemingly have something to do with his book.
The enemies in Alan Wake, the so-called “Taken”, are protected by darkness itself, which has to be pierced by light, making your flashlight avaluable tool and a powerful weapon. Alan Wake has excellent pacing, giving the players heart-pounding action, but there are also moments of respite and exciting cliffhangers when necessary.
|Horror type:||Action & Shooter|
Alien: Isolation follows Amanda Ripley, Ellen’s daughter, who tried to find her mother lost after the events of the original movie.
Unfortunately, the space station she finds herself on has an active Xenomorph problem, in addition to AI having weird ideas, and humans continuing to be just the worst. Not a great environment for seeking clues, so you must get out. Good luck.
The AI of the Xenomorph is stuff of nightmares in its own right, and you’ll spend a lot of time frantically trying to hide as it stalks the corridors alert to any sound. Watching the large, but nimble alien walk past the locker you hid in never gets old, and the consequences of failing to stay hidden and quiet are severe enough to make you try twice as hard after reloading the last save.
Dead by Daylight
|Horror type:||Asymmetrical multiplayer|
Dead by Daylight is something of a love-letter to horror movies from the 80s.
Quite literally, in fact, as it features several cameos from popular characters from those movies, such as Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger or the Leatherface. They come in addition to DbD’s own creations which easily match the classics in being a terrifying presence you want to be as far away from as possible.
Better yet: you can actually take on the role of these deranged villains. Dead by Daylight is an online, asymmetrical multiplayer game, where one of the players will become the vicious killer, while others will have to accomplish map objectives and attempt to find a way out. The maps and objectives are varied, the villains are powerful and terrifying, and the atmosphere is absolutely on point.
The Evil Within 2
The Evil Within is a delightful, psychological horror, taking serious inspiration from one of the most well known horror game series of all time — Silent Hill.
It is a pure survival horror through and through, with no multiplayer or other gimmicks, and yet is both critically acclaimed and popular (given the niche appeal anyway).
It’s something of a mystery thriller with all things that would make it so: a cryptic investigation by a broken detective, a shadowy organization conducting strange experiments, and a literal journey into the mind of a killer, which presents most of the game’s scares through weird psychic manifestations and a really messed up mindscape. It’s immersive, it’s difficult and it’s absolutely terrifying.
The most distinguishing things about Little Nightmares is the way it mixes it’s unique aesthetic and the morbid setting.
The player assumes the role of Six, a small girl in a cute, yellow raincoat, attempting to escape a floating prison known as the Maw. Six has no means of defending herself from ghastly, twisted opponents she will encounter, and her only tool is a lighter, only marginally dispersing the darkness, so she must use her wit to find a way out.
Little Nightmares is a beautiful, cryptic and very immersive game with amazing style, showing distorted humanoids and skewed proportions. It tackles heavy subjects including child abuse, cannibalism and exploitation, so it’s not for the faint of heart. There’s also a prequel, Little Nightmares II, which has its own share of scares with a new protagonist and the same outstanding aesthetic.
|Horror type:||Space adventure|
Dead Space, by all accounts, was a wonder. Although it took clear inspiration from horror classics like Alien and The Thing, it also brought its own creepy ideas, unsettling atmopshere, and immersive gameplay which never distracts you with a HUD.
Necromorphs are also some of the most iconic body-horror monster in all of gaming, and you deserve to be mortified by them.
Dead Space puts you in the shoes of Isaac Clarke, an engineer who responds to distress call from a deep space mining ship where his girlfriend was stationed. As a tech guy, Clarke has little to no combat training, so your main means of defense against relentless Necromorphs are repurposed engineering tools, like a trusty plasma cutter you use to remove their gruesome limbs.
|Horror type:||First-person shooter|
Another staple of video game horror, the F.E.A.R series is a fast-paced shooter with the trappings of a supernatural horror.
It uses all the best tricks in the book, between the creepy imagery of a little Ring-esque girl, through jump scares, down to steep difficulty curve which quickly makes you realise that despite being a FPS protagonist you are not the biggest fish in the pond.
The original game also sttod out for it’s spectacular use of bullet time and really tight gunplay, but it was always clear that the scares and the deeply uncomfortable story are the main focus. In the sequels you discover more of the protagonist’s past, and it never reaches the point where you can safely say “this is fine”. It’s scary, it’s weird, it’s just F.E.A.R.
Resident Evil 7
|Horror type:||Family dining survival|
Few video game series have achieved the levels of fame belonging to Resident Evil, and the seventh main installment revitalized the series on every level.
Not only does it look perhaps too good (all the gruesome stuff you witness comes in top-tier HD), but also ditched the third-person perspective, so now you’re always up close and personal with everything the game family throws at you.
And it does throw a lot of disgusting stuff, from steadily mutating humans enemies and weird sludge monsters, to every story-driven injury Ethan Winters, the protagonist, suffers. The excellent sequel, Resident Evil Village ramps that up with even better graphics and even more graphic horror stuff, from injuries to werewolves and other weird mutants.
Outlast draws deep into the “investigative journalism goes horribly wrong” genre of horror.
In this case, you got a message from a whistleblower that some weird stuff is going on in a local asylum, including experiments on the patients and something that’s hard to describe. Unfortunately, instead of a Pulitzer-worthy scoop you find yourself having to hide and run for your life.
In Outlast you are helpless agains the violent denizens of the troubled asylum, and your only aid against the horror of the place are the dwindling power reserves of your darkvision-enabled camera. It is an intense experience, and received warmly-enough to see a sequel, which we’ve already covered higher up on the list.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
|Horror type:||Lovecraftian survival|
Amnesia: the Dark Descent might be the game responsible for the explosive popularity of first-person horror games which leave you helpless against crazed humans, twisted mutants, and supernatural forces.
In this case, you wake up in a Prussian castle in the mid-19th century, and from the get go you realize that darkness hides not only physical danger, but also wreaks havoc upon your mental well-being.
As you progress through dark corridors and abandoned chambers, you’ll start piecing together your own memories, and learn more about the dark force which stalks the castle. The story gracefully walks the line between Gothic horror and lovecraftian mystery, and if you’re keen on either of them, you owe it to yourself to play Amnesia.
Sometimes “fun” means being terrified
This covers our list of top scary games on Steam. We’ve got science fiction, we’ve got multiplayer, we’ve got both paranormal and supernatural elements. Fear is subjective, so we can’t say what is the scariest game on the list, but we’ve covered enough bases for you to find just the thing that will make you keep your lights on.